Kay Berrisford writes contemporary paranormal and fantasy stories, usually set in her native England. Her latest book, The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate, is out 30th July from Less Than Three Press.
Kay has often visited my blog as a guest and has written several exciting posts but this is the first time she has ever settled into the comfy chair to answer my questions.
Welcome Kay and thanks for being such a good sport.
Elin: Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Kay: I have a day job! I work at a medieval house and city museum, which is great fun, as I get to turn my hand to everything from researching exhibitions to giving tours of creepy crypts. I keep on meaning to write a book set somewhere similar…but never seem to get around to it.
Elin:When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Kay: At the moment, all my spare time goes into the creative business of house-hunting! My hobby is basically trying not to be homeless at the end of August…and no doubt the (mild) trauma will be channeled into a book sometime soon!
Elin:In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Kay: It varies from story to story. With “The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate” it was the situation—the setting (inspired, as I explain later, by the Pembrokeshire Coast) and the idea of a lonely merman watching and pining for his unattainable love, a handsome nobleman. And then a pirate ship sails over the horizon and the dashing rogue of a captain confuses him horribly!
For the book I’m working on now, “Alfie’s Game” (a sequel to “Catching Kit,” for a new series I’m developing for Love Lane Books) I had the characters in my head and they basically told me the plot. John (the neighbor of Denny, the hero of the first book) is a shy computer programmer who’s never had a proper relationship. He’s had a crush on Fox Mulder from The X-Files for twenty years and also fancies Denny next door… till Alfie, a wannabe-actor elf on the run from the elf-catchers turns up and disrupts John’s neat and lonely life for good.
Alfie is a bit of a handful. My original character notes said something like “John-Barrowman-meets-Robbie-Williams-meets-Laurence-Olivier.” Agh! Nobody can be that larger than life, right? Plus, in the end, he’s not really like any of the above. He’s all himself, and fortunately, Alfie’s been showing me his sensitive side too.
Elin:Which of all your characters would you like to snog marry or push down the stairs (in theory since they are spoken for?)
Kay: Snog: Jon Kemp (the pirate in “The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate”) or Herne the Hunter (“Bound to the Beast.”)
Marry: Robin Hood (“Lord of the Forest.”)
Push down the stairs: Baron Odo (“Lord of the Forest.”) He’s probably my evilest human bad guy!
Elin:There is a very strong sense of place in TMATBP. Are the settings based on real places or are they all out of your imagination?
Kay: A bit of both. The story was inspired by a trip to the gorgeous Pembrokeshire coast, in Wales, last September. It really is one of the most stunning places in the world—miles of relatively unspoilt cliffs, seals, wildfowl, and the rolling seas. We were staying in a castle overlooking a beautiful bay. How could I not start dreaming of mermen and pirates? Very inspiring!
However, the book isn’t actually set in Pembrokeshire, but on an imagined part of the English coast. I feel a bit bad for not setting it in Wales (although if I’d decided to have the locals speaking Welsh, poor Raef might have been even more confused, and my own shortcomings in the language would have become obvious!) The book was also a personal nod to the writings of Daphne Du Maurier, who set her books in Cornwall, so there’s a bit of the West Country in there too.
Elin:Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Kay: Alfie (“Alfie’s Game”) turned up pretty much fully fledged, but I’m not that far into writing the book, so we’ll see if he evolves in any way. Raef the merman certainly developed. He was a little more vain and arrogant in my original drafts of the early chapters, but he told me he wanted to be sweet and naïve…so sweet and naïve he was.
Elin:Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?
Kay: I’d love to write sci-fi. I have a half-finished sci-fi manuscript I need to get back too, which should be a lot of angsty fun when I pull it together. Though I love history, I’ve never really written an m/m historicals or got that close to trying. I think it’s because of all the complicated issues, which need to be tackled with thoroughness and respect. I always bounce off into the realm of fantasy fun or contemporary instead. I often have characters, like the elves in my Underground Elves series, who have traveled through time instead of being rooted in one particular age. Then I get the best of all worlds.
Elin:Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?
Kay: I write fun romps, so I like good old-fashioned moustache-twirling bad guys! However, I also find my books have a strong revolutionary subplots that often wend their way in without my realizing. My guys tend to have to overthrow some sort of tyrannical regime or individual before they can get together (see the overthrow of King Lyam in “Bad Slave,” the toppling of Baron Odo in “Lord of the Forest.”) In the Underground Elves series (“Catching Kit” and the forthcoming “Alfie’s Game”) my lads have to liberate elves from centuries of persecution before they can have their happy ever afters.
Given all the effort it takes to write all these regime changes (and the epic battle scenes often involved) I’m wondering why I don’t bother with historicals. The issues there can’t be much more complicated, right?
Elin:What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Kay: At the moment, I’m doing edits for my first m/m contemporary, “Between The Frescoes,” which is a sweet holiday romance about two grad students in Florence, Italy. It’s out on September 9th from Loose Id. Writing-wise, it’s all steam ahead with “Alfie’s Game,” which should hopefully be out sometime in the autumn.
Elin:Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Kay: Here’s an excerpt from The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate. In this scene, Raef has shifted into human form.
“W-we need to talk.” What was it about Kemp that made Raef stammer? He couldn’t gauge it.
“That’s a sound plan.” Kemp placed the book on the table and came closer. “I can’t work you out at all, my lad. You’ve still not told me what it is you do for Lord Haverford. You’re clearly neither a servant nor a so-called gentleman, and you’re no Navy man, that’s for sure. So what are you?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Flustered by the unanswerable question, Raef fell to his knees.
Kemp jumped, clutching the handle of a cutlass at his side. Raef prayed Kemp wouldn’t strike, and gazed up at him, imploring. “I want to apologize for being unfriendly earlier. You, er, you’ve been good to me, at least good for a pirate, and…”
Raef’s attention slammed onto the formidable package at the front of Kemp’s breeches, and a ravenous hunger overtook him. He moistened his dry lips. Now he understood exactly why those young mer threw themselves at lords and princes. These cravings swamped even those he’d harbored for Haverford. He was so desperate to see what lay beneath Kemp’s clothing, he’d all but lay down his life for a peek.
“And?” Kemp eased his grip about the pommel.
Raef’s voice sounded weak and distant. “I, uh, wondered if you and I could get to know each other a bit better.”
“Did you indeed? And why exactly are you kneeling before me?”
“Um, because…” With shaking hands, Raef reached for the silver buckle on Kemp’s belt. He didn’t know what he was doing, but some uncontrollable urge within him shouted this was right. Perhaps it was because he was unused to folk being dressed, because he needed Kemp naked.
“Poseidon’s teeth.” Kemp seized his wrists and pushed him away so hard he tumbled backward. “I don’t think you really want this.”
Raef couldn’t answer; desire quaked through him, though the rational shouts in the back of his mind grew louder. Stripping Kemp’s breeches was more than friendship required.
Kemp eased his glower, then took Raef’s hands and drew him up before leading him over to the bunk. He sat Raef down and settled close by. Their thighs almost brushed. “Is this what Lord Haverford makes you do for him? Is that how you’ve earned your crust?”
On gathering what he could of his fractured wits, Raef neither understood nor liked the melancholy in Kemp’s tone. After all, if Lord Haverford allowed him to give pleasure and be cherished, that would be a glorious thing. He shook his head, and a silky lock drooped across his brow. “No, he doesn’t make me. Nobody has ever made me do anything like that, in all my twenty-one years. Nobody has ever even asked.” He puffed his hair from where it tickled his nose, and the final confession slipped out before he could stop it. “I wish someone would.”
Kemp emitted a noise caught between a sigh and groan, and a roguish glimmer lit his eyes. That shoal of fish in Raef’s belly took flight once more, manic, as if a predator were in their midst.
“Well, my callow colt, we’d better start at the beginning.” Kemp leaned in, obliterating the gap between them, and pressed his lush lips to Raef’s.
Raef’s heartbeat seemed to stop, then it surged forward like rolling thunder. All he could feel was the gentle brush of Kemp’s mouth against his, kindling a wondrous and flourishing heat. Kemp lingered there a moment, offering a kiss of snowflake-light caresses. Then Raef felt Kemp’s tongue, hard and wet and tracing the seam of his lips.
Raef parted them, inviting Kemp inside. Kemp thrust forward, plundering toward Raef’s depths, and pushed his hand up Raef’s thigh toward his achingly-hard loins. He hoped Kemp knew exactly what to do about that, though for now, the kiss incited rapture enough. Coarse beard scraped Raef’s smooth chin, grazing the skin, but he didn’t care. He hugged Kemp tight, gratefully enveloped in Kemp’s embrace. He scrubbed his tongue against Kemp’s, tasting spice, rum, and something uniquely, wonderfully him.
The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate
Raef, a lonely merman, spends his days watching the dashing Lord Haverford from afar and dreaming of love. When Haverford is robbed by a pirate, Raef vows to reclaim the stolen goods, hoping his victory will buy him the happiness he yearns for with Haverford.
But Jon Kemp does not match what Raef knows about pirates, and the simple quest Raef anticipated turns out to be an epic journey. For while Jon might be a nobler man than Raef believed, he’s still a pirate. Love and loyalty are not on Jon’s agenda, and he certainly has no plans to love someone not entirely human …
Buy The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate here.
To celebrate the release of The Merman and the Barbarian Pirate, Kay has organised a giveaway – please click here to go to the link.
Kay’s first paranormal m/m romance, Catching Kit, is also about to be reissued as the start of a new series. Details for preorders are here at Love Lane Books
Kay’s books on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Kay-Berrisford/e/B006JLQ4L8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1
Kay’s books on All Romance: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html?searchBy=author&qString=Kay+Berrisford
Kay’s books on Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/kay-berrisford
Kay’s website: http://kayberrisford.com/